Trump uses fear tac­tics in key Mid­west­ern states

San Francisco Chronicle - Late Edition (Sunday) - - NATION - By Jill Colvin and Brian Slodysko

JANESVILLE, Wis. — Pres­i­dent Trump leaned into fear tac­tics Satur­day as he ac­cused the left of try­ing to “de­stroy the Amer­i­can way of life” in a late re­elec­tion pitch to vot­ers in Michi­gan and Wisconsin — two Mid­west­ern states that were in­stru­men­tal to his 2016 vic­tory but may now be slip­ping from his grasp.

In back­to­back ral­lies, Trump ac­cused the left of want­ing to “erase Amer­i­can his­tory” and “purge Amer­i­can val­ues.” He claimed, with no ba­sis, that Demo­cratic ri­val Joe Bi­den would put com­mu­ni­ties at risk.

Trump of­fered the dark mes­sage as he faces head­winds not only in na­tional polling, which shows Bi­den lead­ing, but also in key bat­tle­ground sur­veys. His com­ments come af­ter his cam­paign, with far less cash than Bi­den’s, largely re­treated from TV ad­ver­tis­ing in the Mid­west, shift­ing much of its money to Sun Belt states such as Florida, North Carolina, Ari­zona and Ge­or­gia, as well as Penn­syl­va­nia.

Ad­dress­ing the coro­n­avirus cri­sis, Trump warned that Bi­den would “shut down the coun­try, de­lay the vac­cine and pro­long the pan­demic.” Pub­lic health ex­perts say the na­tion would be in far bet­ter shape had Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion taken more ag­gres­sive ac­tion early on.

Wisconsin broke the record for new pos­i­tive virus cases on Fri­day — the third time that’s hap­pened in a week. The state also hit record highs for daily deaths and hos­pi­tal­iza­tions this past week.

But there was lit­tle ev­i­dence of con­cern among the thou­sands of sup­port­ers Trump drew in both states, where au­di­ence mem­bers stood closely to­gether, mostly with­out masks.

Trump con­tin­ued to call on Michi­gan Gov. Gretchen Whit­mer to roll back re­stric­tions that re­main in place to try to halt the spread of the virus, prompt­ing the crowd to break into a “Lock her up!” chant.

Whit­mer, a Demo­crat, was the fo­cus of a kid­nap­ping plot by antigov­ern­ment ex­trem­ists who were an­gered by shut­down mea­sures. Thir­teen men have been charged in con­nec­tion with the scheme, which in­cluded plans to storm the state Capi­tol and to hold some kind of trial for the gover­nor.

“You got to get your gover­nor to open your state and get your schools open,” said Trump, who also took credit for fed­eral law en­force­ment’s role in foil­ing the plot.

Whit­mer’s dig­i­tal direc­tor, Tori Say­lor, urged Trump to stop.

“Ev­ery sin­gle time the Pres­i­dent does this at a rally, the vi­o­lent rhetoric to­wards her im­me­di­ately es­ca­lates on so­cial me­dia,” she tweeted. “It has to stop. It just has to.”

Bi­den, mean­while, had no pub­lic events Satur­day. But in a memo to sup­port­ers, cam­paign man­ager Jen O’Mal­ley Dil­lon warned about be­com­ing com­pla­cent.

“The re­al­ity is that this race is far closer than some of the pun­ditry we’re see­ing on Twit­ter and on TV would sug­gest,” she wrote in the memo, a copy of which was ob­tained by the As­so­ci­ated Press. “If we learned any­thing from 2016, it’s that we can­not un­der­es­ti­mate Don­ald Trump or his abil­ity to claw his way back into con­tention in the fi­nal days of a cam­paign, through what­ever smears or un­der­handed tac­tics he has at his dis­posal.“

Trump has an ag­gres­sive cam­paign sched­ule in the com­ing days, with ral­lies planned Sun­day in Ne­vada, Mon­day in Ari­zona and Tues­day in Penn­syl­va­nia.

Jill Colvin and Brian Slodysko are As­so­ci­ated Press writ­ers.

Man­del Ngan / AFP / Getty Im­ages

Pres­i­dent Trump ad­dresses his sup­port­ers at a cam­paign rally at the air­port in Muskegon, Mich.

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